10 things you’ll wonder during labor and delivery

It’s almost go time! You’ve got your hospital bag packed, childbirth classes under your belt, and your birth preferences written down. If this is your first baby, you’re most likely still very curious (okay, maybe even scared to death) about the actual labor and delivery process. That’s totally normal. And chances are, you’ll still have some questions when the big day arrives. Here are the top 10 things you’ll likely wonder (and maybe even Google) during labor and delivery.

Am I really in labor…and is this normal?

Unlike the pregnancy expectations you have from movies or stories (think very public, very obvious water breaking), when labor *really* begins can be somewhat of a mystery. Has my water actually broken or have I just peed myself because of the pressure of the baby on my bladder? Was that a mucus plug I just flushed? Am I having legit contractions or are these just Braxton-Hicks? Is. This. Normal?

Rest assured, you’re not alone. We don’t have empirical data, but we’d bet that 99% of all women wonder if labor is really happening. And honestly, it’s no wonder. Not everyone’s water will break in early labor, and not everyone will pass a mucus plug in early labor or even notice if they do. The best thing to do is to read up on early labor signs and, if you’re unsure if what you’re experiencing is the real deal, call your OB, midwife, or doula and let them know what’s going on.

How long will I be in labor?

This is the most frequently asked question, and clearly the part most women worry about. How long will I have to push? Will medication help? What if I set the record for world’s longest labor? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long you will labor or what the sensation of contractions will feel like for you personally. But you can take comfort in the fact that the average length of time for women to labor is about eight hours, and if you need some pain relief even though you planned for an unmedicated birth, no one will judge you.

The best thing to do is to research the stages of labor so you know what to expect during the overall process. Every stage of labor is necessary to bring your baby into the world, and the more you understand about each stage, the easier it will be to work with your body rather than against it. Other than that, just remind yourself that you will get through it. You will!

Will I have to be induced?

There are some instances when an induction can be declined, and others when an induction really is what’s best for mom and baby. But because most women don’t plan on being induced and many birth classes don’t cover the logistics of inductions (for example, what’s the difference between Pitocin, Cervidil, and a Foley bulb?), you may have several last minute questions if an induction is recommended.

The worst thing you can do is worry about whether or not you’ll have to be induced. Stress and adrenaline can actually prevent you from going into spontaneous labor, so take it easy. Sure, read into when an induction is medically necessary so you’re informed, but then, put it out of your mind.

If an induction is recommended at some point, use your B.R.A.I.N. Ask your OB or midwife what the benefits, risks, and alternatives are, ask what happens if you do nothing (for a minute, an hour, a day, a week), and listen to your intuition.

Should I get an epidural or not?

No one can tell you ahead of time whether or not you *should* get an epidural. The truth is, some women shoot for a natural delivery and get through without medication, and then others plan on a natural birth but get in the moment and change their minds. Both groups of women are magical and worthy of allllll the applause.

Giving birth is freaking hard work and pain is subjective, which means no one has the same experience. Add to that the fact that your labor might be a sprint or it could be a marathon, and you’ve got several factors that may influence what you choose on the big day.

Again, it comes down to preferences. Give your preferences some thought ahead of time, but even if you plan on having an unmedicated birth, go ahead and ask some common questions regarding epidurals, like how they are inserted, how long they last, what it feels like ,and when it’s too late to request one. That way, when you’re in labor, you’ll be informed and open to making the best decision for you.

What if I have to have a C-Section at the last minute?

In some instances a C-section is planned in advance because of things like baby’s position or mom’s needs and preferences. Other times, a C-section is unplanned and becomes part of the conversation because labor isn’t progressing well. And in some cases, an emergency C-section is needed – like when baby is in distress. Because it’s something that can happen with little preparation and planning on your part, do yourself a favor and read up C-sections well before your due date. In most cases, you can still have many of your birth preferences honored during a C-section, even if it was unplanned. In emergency situations, that may not be the case, but the good news is that emergency C-sections are actually the least common type.

What is that pain I’m feeling? Why do I feel like I have the flu?

Unexpected aches and pains are a normal part of labor and delivery. After all, your body is doing some seriously amazing (and hard) work. Labor is the most intense workout of your life, so, no, it’s not completely uncommon for some women to feel a “ring of fire” as they push or to have chattering teeth or the urge to throw up at some point in the process. Some labor sensations seem to come as a complete shock. The important thing to remember is that every woman experiences something different with labor, and there’s no way to know what types of sensations you’ll have until you’re in it.

Why does my butt hurt so bad?

Overall, labor is painful. That’s a given. But what comes as a total surprise for most women is the intense pain they feel in their butt. If you think about it, it actually makes sense since the rectal area is neighbors with the birth canal. There’s a considerable amount of pressure and strain put on your bum during the pushing phase of labor, so that area is likely to be sore for a while during recovery.

What can you do? Prepare for some discomfort there, plan for some alone time during that first postpartum poo, and whatever you do, don’t Google ‘Why does my butt hurt so bad after birth?’ unless you want to be horrified.

Will I tear while giving birth?

Bad news first: Many moms tear during birth. Now for the good news: Tearing usually heals pretty quickly. It’s one of those normal occurrences of giving birth that you can’t really predict or prevent. But honestly, there’ll be so much going on and you’ll *hopefully* be flooded with so much oxytocin, you won’t even know you’ve torn until your doctor mentions it or stitches you up. So, release your fears and know that your body is a miracle and the area will heal quickly.

What will I do while I’m waiting for labor to begin?

Some women find that they have a lot of time to wait before labor progresses to the pushing phase. Since you won’t go back home until you’ve had the baby, how will you pass the time? That’s where your hospital bag comes in. Pack it full of ways to entertain yourself. Think: books, music, games, a journal. And of course, there’s no easier way to kiss hours of your life goodbye in the blink of an eye than scrolling through social media or streaming your favorite show. So, make sure your phone and tablet are packed and fully charged.

What happens after delivery?

A lot of women are so focused on the actual delivery and caring for the baby in those first hours that they’re completely unprepared for postpartum and all its glory. How you will care for yourself after labor is ultimately dependent on the type of delivery you had. Your OB, midwife, or doula will provide you with personalized info on what to do to care for yourself postpartum. And if you have any probing questions about what to do or how to do it, don’t be afraid to ask them. That’s what they’re there for!

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